Rathgeber romps to victory

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Brent Rathgeber wins second term as MP

Brent Rathgeber is back again as member of Parliament for Edmonton-St. Albert.

Rathgeber swept aside his opponents on election night, winning 64 per cent of the vote with all polls reporting. His was one of the 167 seats won by the Conservatives that night, a win that secures them a majority government.

It was a long, tough campaign, says Rathgeber, reached at his election-night rally at Duke’s Bar & Grill in Edmonton.

“I’m honoured and humbled that the residents of Edmonton-St. Albert have decided I’m worthy of a second term.”

His party’s platform of low taxes and economic management clicked with voters at the doors, Rathgeber says, as did his work on the federal justice committee. He looked forward to getting back to work on the many crime bills that died on the order paper with the election — bills the Conservatives have vowed to pass as a single omnibus measure within 100 days of taking office.

“I’m hoping Bregg’s Bill might be included in that omnibus bill,” he adds, referring to a bill he tabled that addressed violence against bus drivers.

This election has certainly changed Canada’s political landscape, he says, referring to the almost total disappearance of the Bloc Québécois, the fall of the Liberals and the rise of the NDP. “We may be seeing the decline of the Liberal party, and we’re certainly seeing the decline of the Bloc.”

The NDP might actually be easier to work with than the Liberals, Rathgeber says, as their position on issues, being firmly on the left, is more predictable. “Just because the government has a majority doesn’t mean it’s smooth sailing,” he adds — the opposition still has many means with which to delay or modify bills.

Rathgeber congratulated his opponents on a good, clean campaign, especially newcomers Brian LaBelle and Kevin Taron. “We haven’t heard the last from either of them.” He promised to represent all his constituents in the House, and hoped to get back to work soon.

Candidates vow to carry on

Brian LaBelle won about 21 per cent of the vote for the NDP — about five points more than the party got in 2008. Nationally, his party won 102 seats to become the Official Opposition for the first time in Canadian history.

LaBelle says he’s not surprised by this result. “It’s not a surprise to me that the party that’s been most willing to work with the other parties is getting as many seats as they are this election,” he says. “I think it’s spectacular what’s happened so far.”

He didn’t have a great campaign this time around, he says. “I did get caught in the middle of my final [exams]this year and I only got a couple months of door-knocking in.” Now that he’s done school, he says he plans to stay on as the party’s candidate and start building support for the next election.

About 11 per cent of voters cast ballots for Kevin Taron of the Liberals. The party got about 15 per cent of the vote in the last election. The Liberals’ share of the House plummeted to 34 seats by the end of the night from 77 before the election. Party leader Michael Ignatieff lost his seat in Toronto and stepped down as party leader Tuesday.

“We definitely reached out and touched a lot of people,” says Taron, who was proud of his team’s efforts during the campaign. “We definitely got the message out there.”

We’re seeing a big shift in the political landscape this election, he continues, especially when it comes to Quebec where many ridings went to the NDP. “This is a populist wave,” he says, one he doesn’t see lasting beyond this election. “I think now people will start paying attention to what [the NDP]is saying and that’s going to have an impact.”

Taron says he’s still pumped from campaigning and plans to run again given the chance. “This was without a doubt one of the most amazing things I’ve done.”

Peter Johnston says he was disappointed by his performance for the Greens — he won four per cent of the vote, or about half what he got in 2008.

“My campaign could have been better,” he says, and he accepts full responsibility for the results. “I guess I got exactly what I deserved!” he says, with a laugh. He was very happy that party leader Elizabeth May got her B.C. seat, he adds, as that was the party’s main goal in this campaign.

It’s tough to get people to change their vote, Johnston says, and even tougher when you’re up against a national surge for the NDP. Many potential Green voters likely went to the NDP as a result. Still, he says, he got a lot of support from students this campaign, and they’ll be old enough to vote in the next election. “We have to keep up the fight.”

Johnston vowed to stay on as party candidate and keep giving talks to raise support for the next election. “I’m actually invigorated by this campaign.”

About 56 per cent of riding residents voted in the election, according to Elections Canada, or about two per cent more than in 2008.

See www.elections.ca for the official results.

Edmonton-St. Albert results

Brent Rathgeber, Conservative: 34,468 (63.5)
Brian LaBelle, NDP: 11,644 (21.4)
Kevin Taron, Liberal: 5,796 (10.7)
Peter Johnston, Green: 2,409 (4.4)
246/246 polls reporting
56.1 per cent voter turnout
Source: Elections Canada

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.